You’ve likely seen the images on Facebook or Pinterest or wherever of a dad doing something fun with his child with a caption that says something like: “this is what a great dad looks like” or “I know what a great dad looks like.” You’ll see comments like these under videos of dads playing with their kids too. When I first saw these I agreed for the most part, but there was something about them that unsettled me.
I started thinking about it the other day, an activity that often gets me into trouble … but one that also saves me every day from living a life less than my dreams. In those moments of thought it dawned on me that as a society we have terribly low standards for dads. If we can look at a dad simply playing with his child and say that he is a good or great dad, then something is wrong.
A dad who plays with their child is not necessarily a “great dad”. When you think about it, at most a dad who plays with their child is maybe not a horrible dad! But that does not make them a good or “great dad”. Imagine if you saw a picture of a mom in a cape at the grocery store with her son … you wouldn’t go saying “this is what a great mom looks like.”
Here are a few key considerations
First of all, is there any job or activity where doing the minimum means you’re great at it? No, of course not. Playing with a child is on the minimum level of what a dad should be doing with his child. It’s not exceptional … again, it’s just part of not being a horrible dad.
Secondly, being a dad is one of the most important things a father will do in his entire life. It may even be the most important. That’s true regardless of the priority they place on it in their lives. So, we should probably not have low standards for this most important of responsibilities in our lives.
What makes a great dad (or parent)?
Great parents are the ones who do their best to help their children grow into independent, responsible, ethical, kind, and confident human beings. What that looks like (probably) can’t be captured in a single photograph.
I’m not entirely clear on all of the ways I need to grow as a man in order to be a great dad. But I know that I have to grow in order to be a great dad. We all do. It’s not all pre-programmed. If it were everyone would be a fantastic parent and incredible people, because our children model us too.
Specifically what that looks like I hope to address in future blog posts. I’ll link to them once they’ve been written. For now please share any ideas you have about what makes a great dad.